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Witness: Child Soldiers Guarded Lubanga

A former officer in the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) militia told the court on Tuesday that commanders, including Thomas Lubanga, had child soldiers among their bodyguards.

The child soldiers at the UPC headquarters and those in Lubanga’s personal guard wore military uniforms and carried arms, he said.

When he first testified earlier this month, the witness said he was a platoon commander in UPC. But on Tuesday, Judge Adrian Fulford mentioned that the witness held various positions.

In his brief public testimony, the witness said he was in charge of security in the army, not training.

The man’s role in the UPC emerged after prosecutor Manoj Sachdeva questioned the witness about punishment for recruits and trainees.

Children in the training camps, regardless of gender, underwent the same training as adults, he said, which lasted two or three weeks.

When finished, all were given uniforms and arms, and were deployed to various UPC units. Child soldiers had the same duties as adults, he said.

“If a Kadogo (child soldier) finishes his training, he is deployed, he is given a weapon and obviously he is going to fight,” the witness said in Swahili.

The introductory part of a recruit’s training was “to eliminate fear of civilians in order to prepare them for military life,” he said.

The witness said commanders of UPC brigades individually conscripted young people, trained them, and gave them weapons.

“Each commander needs to have numerous troops… so their troops found a way of (getting) young people and providing them with appropriate (training and arms) and this was done at the level of brigades,” the witness explained.